Spring is coming so time to go antique hunting

Find me at Stand 121 at the Giant Flea & Collectors Market, Shepton Mallet Showground on Sunday 23rd February 2014. This fair is great fun. You can find all sorts of treasures. I will be selling some of the antiques used for the wrapping papers and cards, so if you live near enough and flooding permits, do come and say hello. There are some good food vans too. You can bring your dog along too!

This 18th century silk brocade of gold polychrome threads with floral embroidery will be for sale for £58. It is the shape of a stomacher which is the central panel of a dress circa 1760. This may have been made in Spitalfields. It glistens like gold.

mid 18th century stomacher


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A mysterious new purchase

At Shepton Mallet Antique and Collector’s Fair a couple of weeks ago, I bought an amazing little box. I really cannot decide if it is an 18th century box or was made CLOVE BOX WHOLEmuch later. What do you think it is made from?


It measures 15cm at the longest side, 11cm wide and 6cms deep. It has a very 18th century shape and you have probably guessed that it is made from hundreds of dried cloves. When you open the box the smell is absolutely wonderful. It seems to have been made by threading each clove on to a wire frame.

Could this box have been made by slaves on a spice ship or in a Georgian kitchen or more recently in a country where spices are harvested. Does anyone have any ideas? Has anyone seen one like this before?

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all those who find their way to this blog. May 2014 be a healthy, happy and prosperous year for you.

The countryside around Bath has been hit by floods over the Christmas holiday but it has not been as bad as some parts of the country. The weather remains very mild for this time of the year. Bradford-on-Avon, which is a small town near Bath was divided into two by flooding.  I met a 90 year old inhabitant who told me when she was a girl, the canal which runs through the town, used to freeze for at least 6 weeks a year. As a girl she used to skate on the canal with her brothers and sisters.

Le Supreme Bon Ton published circa 1810

Le Supreme Bon Ton published circa 1810

Here we have some skaters in 1810 although I cannot tell whether they are skating on the canal or the river. The girl and the man accompanying her on the left of the picture seem to walking on the ice in their shoes!!

We have some new designs for 2014. A wrapping paper/poster depicting 18th century tiles, 1910 – 1960 stuffed soft toys, Physiognomical Studies and a re working of  WP199 ‘Green’ inspired by Robert Adam.

WP242 – The animals on this paper have such wonderful expressions. I smiled when I was photographing them. I thought it was about time I designed a wrapping paper/poster with children in mind. The animals date from 1910 – 1960. Many of these soft toys will bring back memories of childhood. The big names of Merrythought, Steiff, Schuco, Chad Valley, Chiltern, Dean and Farnell remind us of the toy manufacturers of the past. Some are still making soft toys today.

Margaret Steiff founded the Steiff company in 1877. She had been crippled by polio and was confined to a wheelchair. As a result of this disability she became an expert needlewoman and opened a clothes shop. With the left over scraps from her Uncle’s fabric factory she began to make stuffed toys. Her brother sold the toys in his shop. In 1903 she exhibited her first jointed bear at a trade fair in Leipzig. This was not a runaway success  and was modified. The new bear was registered in 1904 and was a huge success. At the end of 1904 12,000 bears had been sold. During 1907 nearly a million bears were sold. When Margaret Steiff died in 1909 her business had blossomed and a dynasty had been born and many members of her family worked in the business. These early bears are incredibly expensive when they come up for sale. Some make over £100,000 at auction!

The lamb on the second line up from the bottom and third animal in from the right has such a charming expression it just has to be my favourite.

WP242 Vintage Soft Toys

WP242 Vintage Soft Toys


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Spitalfield’s Silk

Spitalfields was where the silk weaving industry started in London by the Huguenots. The Huguenots were French protestants who fled Catholic France from the 16th century. By 1710, 40,000-50,000 Huguenots had made their way to England. About half settled in Spitalfields. Textile production was their most common occupation. Many came from Tours and Lyon and set up their looms in Spitalfields, which was know as ‘Weaver Town’ at the beginning of the 18th century, as their trade flourished. There was a silk industry in London but as the 18th century progressed it became concentrated in Spitalfields. James Leman was one of the designers and there are examples of his work from 1706 at the V&A Museum in London. James Leman was born in  1688 and was apprenticed to his father in Stewart Street, Spitalfields. He was an artist, designer and manufacturer. The V&A publication ‘Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century’ has pictures of many of his designs.

The Huguenots made taffetas, velvets, brocades, satins and silks for the fashion industry and taught the people of Spitalfields to make these wonderful materials. Many were of flamboyant design with semi-naturalistic flowers depicted in wonderful colours. Some designs were woven on grounds of silver and gold. Lighter weight fabrics had delicate floral sprigs and stripes.  This period of production was heavily influenced by French fashion.

By 1760 motifs were much smaller and the fashion for Neo-Classical style was evident with wreaths, columns, rosettes and ovals.

The early 19th century saw the arrival of light Indian muslins and Chinese silks sending the Spitalfields silk weaving trade went into decline. 30,000 workers were reduced to starvation wages and with the introduction of new machinery, there were violent clashes between workers and factory owners. Eventually many Huguenots moved away from Spitalfields to the suburbs. By 1826 the Spitalfields silk weaving industry had collapsed.

Although there is no silk in Spitalfields now, it is really worth visiting. We went last weekend and enjoyed a sunny walk through the area. I think Fournier Street is one of the loveliest streets in London. A perfect example of an early 18th century street, which is just as it would have been, when built. I have a friend who lodged there in the 1950s and describes the poverty and dangers of living here. Now it is home to several famous people and beautifully restored and cared for. A trip to 18 Folgate Street is a must. This Huguenot silk weaver’s house was restored to its late 18th century state by the artist Dennis Severs. You can walk round the 10 rooms and pick up the atmosphere of a different age and imagine the life of the owner. If you love material a visit to Berwick Street in Soho is a treat. There are several shops selling wonderful silks and two branches of a fascinating shop called The Cloth Shop. Pop into Gail’s Bakery in nearby Wardour Street (128) for some of the best cakes I have ever tasted.

Many years ago I bought a small scrap of silk from an antique shop in Bath. Later a textile expert told me it was a sample of Spitalfields silk from the late 18th century. I made this into a wrapping paper pictured below. The Chinese influence is already in evidence. The company has a little gift tag to go with this design too.




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A Georgian Lady’s Dressing Table

The dressing table mirrors of the late 18th century were often draped with muslin or other diaphanous material. I have never heard a definite reason for this but there are several prints and paintings showing this trend. Many of the items below can be seen at No 1 Royal Crescent in Bath. This wonderful Museum has been closed for restoration and refurbishment and is now open to visitors once again.

The dressing table itself would probably have had many items on its polished wooden surface. Items for the lady’s hair would be a brush, comb, maybe clay rollers which look like large stiff cream maggots, a wig, an ivory hand on a stick to tickle underneath those heavy wigs and an array of hair ornaments. These might be made of tortoiseshell, silver, ivory, gold, steel or wood. Eyebrows were often shaved and artificial eyebrows made from mouse hairs applied! First catch your mouse! Lips were tinted with coloured plaster of Paris. Wigs were elaborate at this time and powdered grey. Tiny bellows shot the powder into the wig.

Make up creams were quite poisonous as they were made with lead powder and on application whitened the face. It was very fashionable to have a white complexion and it also covered blemishes particularly from scars left after small pox. The whitening cream and rouge, which was made from crushed red beetles, were kept in pottery, china or glass dishes with covers. Patches were worn to cover pox marks and there was also a patch language. Where the patch was worn on the face sent messages about whether a woman was married, unmarried or looking for a husband etc. The patches which were usually made out of black tafetta and  were kept on small glass patch stands to aid easy application. Beautifully decorated patch boxes in many kinds of precious, semi precious and enamelled small round, rectangular or oval shapes were made at this time. The little boxes would often have charming messages written on the lid and were often entitled ‘A Souvenir from Bath’ or Margate etc. I suppose an early souvenir to take home for your Mum, a girlfriend or perhaps yourself.


Jewellery would be taken off and placed in a jewellery casket or box. Earrings, necklaces, brooches, pendants, bracelets and rings were all worn by the ladies. A pearl necklace was popular although a luxury. Even women without means would have some kind of jewellery. Most women love jewellery and we still wear all the above today. I wear 2 rings. One is a 17th century gold band and the other was made in the late 18th century. Neither look very different from contemporary rings.

I think everyone’s teeth must have been poor. They did have brushes and toothpicks were stored in pretty boxes. Ladies who had lost some of their teeth might occasionally wear ‘plumpers’.  These were cork balls, which were pushed into cheeks, to keep sunken cheeks plump. Teeth from the newly dead or artificial ivory or porcelain false teeth were held in with horrible unctions. Not sure I fancy any of that!

Spectacles were available for those who could afford them and would be carried in a leather case, which I am sure would have ended up on their dressing table. They would be needed to see their reflection or perhaps read a letter.

Scent bottles would have also been on the dressing table. Lavender water was a firm favourite and on one etching I spotted a bottle with the name ‘Milk of Roses’.

Lastly but most important of all was light. A pair of candlesticks and a wick trimmer would have been essential for the lady to see her face in the mirror and for her maid to attend to her toilette.

I have a light over a chest of drawers, which acts as my dressing table, with a magnified mirror to see what I am doing! Things have not changed so much.


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Worcester Factory

We have a new card C241 showing Worcester cups from the Georgian period.

Worcester Cups


Dr Wall and his 14 partners purchased Lund and Miller, a Bristol china factory, in 1751. The early pieces were very much influenced by Chinese imports and decorated  in similar colours. After 1752 soapstone was added to the clay to make a fine porcelain. The factory moved to Worcester taking Benjamin Lund as an employee. The pieces made at this time were not always very stable and examples sold today realise huge sums of money due to their rarity. In 1783 Thomas Flight purchased the company from Dr Wall and one of the original partners, William Davis continued to run the concern. This period of manufacture is called Davis/Flight. The famous Blue Lily pattern was created during this period. King George III ordered a service in this pattern in 1788.

Flight and Davis were joined by Martin Barr in 1793. This is why porcelain from this period is called Flight Barr Worcester. Some items were hand painted in both naive style and highly decorated with skilled painting.  The bottom cup on the card is decorated in the Royal Lily design. In 1804 Martin Barr’s son, also called Martin, joined the firm and the wares were known as Barr, Flight & Barr. On the death of the first Martin Barr another son, George Barr joined the partnership, so Flight, Barr & Barr was born.

The soapstone porcelain did not crack as easily as some soft-paste wares. This enabled them to be successfully filled with hot liquids. It must have been such a breakthrough to be able to fill them with the newly introduced tea.

Worcester porcelain has manufactured English Porcelain since 1751 and is the only factory to have done so without a break. I just love the intense colours and designs from the Worcester factory. The Worcester Porcelain Museum is a must. Do go and have a look at the beautiful examples they have on display.


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Pride & Prejudice

It is 200 years since the publishing of Jane Austen’s novel Pride & Prejudice in 1813. Sophie at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath asked me to design a poster to commemorate this anniversary. I decided to concentrate on the book covers over the last 200 years. The earliest copy I could find was  published in 1893 by Miles & Miles. Bayntuns, a bookshop and bookbinders in Bath gave me permission to photograph several of their early copies. The very earliest copies are quite plain and often bound in soft red leather. They are highly prized and sell for huge amounts of money.

The first version of Pride & Prejudice was called ‘First Impressions” and Jane started writing it in October 1796. Jane read the novel aloud to her sister, Cassandra, and we know the readings were accompanied by much laughter.

She wrote Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and Northanger Abbey  during her trips to Steventon and different parts of Hampshire and Kent. She was only between the ages of 19 and 23.

Jane’s father, the Reverend George Austen, first submitted Pride & Prejudice to the publishers in 1797 when she was 22. He offered to bear the expense of publishing the novel himself. Like Jane he was very disappointed when it was refused by Cadell the publishers. Messrs Cadell did not even look at the work. Jane later revised the novel and resubmitted it for publication in 1813. It was accepted. In a letter to Cassandra in 1813, Jane wrote ‘I have lop’t and crop’t it so successfully that I imagine it must be rather shorter than Sense & Sensibility’.  Sense & Sensibility had already been published in 1811 at Jane’s expense. She only recovered her expenses after sales and paying the publisher 10%. All the copies were sold and she made a £140. However on the 29th January 1813 Thomas Egerton published Pride & Prejudice at his own risk. Each copy cost 18 shillings. Wouldn’t he and Jane have been staggered at the success of this novel! It was printed in an edition of 1500. (I wonder how many have been sold since then!)

Pride & Prejudice has been translated into hundreds of languages with an amazing variety of book covers. I concentrated on the the English titles and found an extraordinary mix of typography, illustration and photography. George Allen’s binding with peacock feathers in gold on green cloth is a valuable book despite the condition. It has an Art Nouveau feel although my Mum would not have liked it. She was very superstitious about peacock feathers! The Cozy Classics book is absolutely enchanting and has been illustrated for young children by two brothers in America. The book published by J. M. Dent in 1904 is covered in soft duck egg coloured leather and embossed with gold also in the Art Nouveau style.

This poster of the Pride & Prejudice book covers is for sale in the shop at The Jane Austen Centre along with a second poster depicting Chapter 1 of Pride & Prejudice. If you are a Jane Austen fan and you are in Bath it really is worth visiting The Jane Austen Centre, Gay Street, Bath.

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Collective Nouns for Animals and People

Here is a little more on the collective nouns design. Several people have asked me what inspired the collective nouns wrapping paper and cards. Firstly when my children were small they had a Ladybird book called ‘The Ladybird book of Spelling and Grammar’. This listed a few collective nouns like a murder of crows and a bench of magistrates. They were really fascinated by them especially a crash of rhinoceroses. Then one day I found and bought a copy of  ‘The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England’ by Joseph Stutt in an antique centre called Top Banana in Tetbury. The first edition was published in 1801, mine was published in 1830. This proved to be the most wonderful book with all kinds of information about rural and domestic recreations, May games, mummeries, shows procession pageants and ‘pompous’ spectacles from ‘the earliest period to the present time’. In the first chapter there is a long list of the collective nouns for animals. A harras of horses, a baren of mules, a sloth of bears to name a few. Later I found ‘A Crash of Rhinoceroses’ by Rex Collings which is a marvellous book and gives the origins of so many collective nouns. He lists many collective nouns for people too. With some extra help from my Oxford English Dictionary the cards wrapping paper were listed and ready to print.

‘The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England’ also gives information about the May celebrations. On the 1st May the young people would get up in the very early hours of the morning and walk to some neighbouring wood, blowing horns and singing and would then break down tree branches and cover them in flowers. They would then take them home and decorate their doors and windows. As the sun rose they would then dance round the Maypole in some part of their village or town. The May Day celebrations were not always just on May 1st.  In London they went on for several days with Morris dancers, archery shows and in the evening they performed stage plays and had bonfires in the street. Contemporary writing suggest the May poles were brought home by oxen with flowers decorating their horns. Sometimes the poles were painted in bright colours. A May Queen was appointed each year. There is also mention of dancing milk maids with flower decorated milk pails on their heads. A Lord and Lady of the May presided over the celebrations. Many of these traditions were much older than the 18th century.

There was also the May celebrations of the chimney sweeps of London. They paraded the streets in disguises made from gilt, paper and ‘other mock fineries’. They carried shovels and brushes which they rattled at each other. Sometimes they were accompanied by a Lord and Lady of the May, a fiddler and a Jack of the Green. A Jack of the Green is a made from a wood or wickerwork frame in the form of a pyramid but open at the bottom so a man can hide beneath. The frame is the covered with green leaves and bunches of flowers. The man within then dances, creating a strange dancing pyramid.

Now we seldom see a Maypole. There are still some in operation on May Day throughout England and I spotted one last year in Nailsworth in Gloucestershire. My daughter was born on May 1st so we celebrate that day for other reasons too.

One of our new wrapping paper depicts an etching of an 18th century serving girl who is probably a milkmaid. Sadly there are no flower decorated pails on their heads. I would love to have seen them on May Day all those years ago.

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Ice and Flowers

Here we are deep in snow. Bath is looking lovely albeit it is almost impossible to go anywhere and it is really treacherous on foot. 3 cars were completely stuck in our lane this morning. The ice is like glass.

One can really imagine what Georgian Bath was like when all the cars are covered in snow and there is no moving traffic. I met a lady, who was 95 years old and had lived in Bath all her life. She told me, when she was a little girl, she used to skate on the canal for several weeks in the winter. There are many prints of skaters enjoying the ice. The one below is called ‘Le Supreme Bon Ton, No 9’ which was published circa 1810. We sell this as a card and it’s code no is C206.

However there are lots of bulbs poking up through the snow and before long the snowdrops will be out. We have seen some at Iford Manor near Bath already this year.

We have some flower cards and wrapping papers on offer for our wholesale customers. See our wholesale site and view the cards and wrapping papers by using our ‘Spring Offers’ button.

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Happy New Year

Before Christmas I listened to a radio programme in which a lady who worked for  the publisher Constable & Robinson Ltd was discussing the most popular books their company publishes. One of the most popular authors was called M. C. Beaton. I had never read any of her books. To my delight I was given ‘ Belinda Goes to Bath’ for Christmas. This is very appropriate as we live in Bath.  It turned out to be an enchanting little story about a matchmaker in 1800.  There are 6 books in the matchmaker series and I would like to read the others too. The historical details were good and the story was very entertaining. A third of the way through the book there is a coach accident and the bedraggled travellers are taken in at a nearby stately home where they are given ‘hot negus’. I have never heard of this drink and it prompted a little research. It seems to be another name for mulled wine and the word was much used in the Regency period. Ingredients vary but the base is wine with sugar, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. There are several recipes on the internet. I also discovered another favourite with the ladies was a non alcoholic drink called ‘Orgeat’ made from barley or almonds, ratafia or orange- flower water.

Many gentlemen from the late 18th and early 19th centuries did drink large amounts. Alcohol was inexpensive. Although wine bottles were slightly smaller, in the early 1800s,  three bottle a day men were often seated at a fashionable dinner party. Port was consumed in large quantities at the end of the meal and it seems drinking alcohol was as fashionable then as it is today. Pubs never closed and there were around 50,000 inns and taverns around the country in 1820 (the population being approximately 14 million). Ale or claret was drunk at breakfast, Madeira, sherry or ratafia (a liqueur flavoured with fruit and almonds) mid morning, wine with lunch and wine, Champagne, brandy and port for dinner. Oh help!!!

Glasses were shared between guests at dinners and washed out by servants in a bowl hidden behind a screen or by the guests themselves in their own bowl on the table. Drunkeness was considered quite acceptable and even the Prince Regent fell over drunk and was sick while on the dance floor on one occasion. The recommended cure for a hangover was to take a glass of hock and soda!

The men who went hunting and shooting took a silver hip flask of brandy to keep them warm and happy.

The poor drank gin as it was very cheap and pubs never closed. Water was not safe and was virtually never drunk on its own. However tea, coffee and chocolate were becoming available to a wider public. What a relief!

The wrapping paper WP124 below shows original Georgian and early Victorian glasses holding drinks and deserts. The contents are as near as we could manage 200 years later.

A Happy New Year to any who should read this.

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